Text Cesare Cunaccia
Exotic. A word that in our era has possibly lost much of its sense and meaning, in a world overly connected, globalised and fast in its exchanges and movements. The irresistible fascination of the exotic, or rather of the exotic peoples, and of the endless exoticism that derives from them, is still vivid and appealing today. The urgency of the rhythm is sinuous, syncopated and enveloping like a Paolo Conte milonga; the drumbeat, hollow and deep, echoes in the background.
A rhapsody on the exotic – A flow of sounds, images and references based on the concept of the exotic, has space here, in these pages, and now, as a tale of the collection of accessories in exotic leathers by the Fendi atelier. Patchwork, filaments and linear cut-outs in python, crocodile, lizard and snakeskin exude fluid geometry, bright flashes and three dimensionality. Collages and combinations of textures and depths, leather mosaics in minuscule or large patches. Fabric effects and floral bursts in reptile scales, with their tremulous oval petals creating cold, distilled nuances around the metallic F, now upturned and placed diagonally. A graphic expression, today bolder than ever, encircled with a steel ring. The zips cross flat surfaces with square patterns in search of abstraction, like siblings and lean, quicksilver segments. Coloured and recoloured, these exotic leathers follow a palette that pairs vivid enamelled hues with dense, natural tones, and even seventies style and pop Warholian lacquer red and green inserts.
Fendi does not want to restrict its desire for metamorphosis and fevered experimentation of a thousand iridescent flashes, on materials, inserts, and highly skilled artisan workmanship. Bags and clutches that, sometimes inspired by classic items from the Roman atelier, retain their essence. Bending the barriers, pushing forward the limits towards further challenges. The language of Fendi is a sophisticated grammelot that defines kaleidoscopic and engaging aesthetics never seen before. Today and yesterday, past and future, cultural citations and city street style are in a dynamic dialogue and overlap. A centrifuge of signs and suggestions blending pure geometry, pulsating textures and esoteric dust in tones saturated by oriental spice.
A perfume from afar, a perspective of pure fantasy, whether near or distant, it makes no difference. Exotic is a dimension that will carry you away, through other scenes of the imagination, abandoning you on a flight that glides through dreams, whichever dream it is you dream of or pursue. All this is exotic, capable of shifting in sense and meaning according to the desires, the viewpoint and the vision of those who seek it. Exotique is the tropical literary adventure with a colonial after-taste, as described by Pierre Loti and Kipling, and by Emilio Salgari, exegesist of an opulent India, fierce and mysterious, all completely imagined as the writer from Verona never had the opportunity to visit or see it first hand. There are the travels of the English dandy, Robert Byron, to Mount Athos, to Tibet and in 1937 along the road to Oxiana in a Rolls-Royce or the highly amusing entomological wanderings of Patrick Leigh-Fermor towards the Byzantium lands. The Sheltering Sky written by Paul Bowles in 1949, is disconcerting. A single psychic sentence sums up the enchantment, the heart-rendering poetry and subversion: «A black star appears, a point of darkness in the night sky›s clarity».
Exotic and sensual: this was Palermo at the beginning of the 20th century, in a golden and bygone season dominated by Franca Florio – F.F a bizarre and fateful assonance. She was a woman of imperious and magnetic beauty, portrayed by Boldini in a décolleté Worth gown with her sautoir of infinite gleaming pearls and the devant-de-corsage in diamonds. Her exaggerated and legendary jewellery was capable of arousing the jealousy of a sovereign. The last Empress of Germany, Augusta Vittoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, known to her friends as Dona, Wife of the Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia, was drawn, with the rest of the international society, to Sicily, attracted by the seamless mobile fiesta organised by the Florios with sumptuous and quixotic grace between Palermo, Mondello and Favignana. It was the Empress herself who baptised the divine Franca as the undisputed Queen of Palermo.
Numerous trajectories of exoticism, fragrant with cardamom and sandalwood, with incense, amber and patchouli, which blend hints of the Mozarabic and Moorish, of flowering orange blossom and jasmine with triumphs of coral from Trapani and chests in bronze and tortoiseshell. The Zisa and the Cosmatesque polychromatic marble-tiled floor of the Church of the Martorana fade before the theatrical 19th century Tuscan Alhambra, the Castello di Sammezzano, and the Late Roman narrative mosaics of the Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina.
Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca lives in Bagheria in the 18th century Villa Valguarnera, the villa she has fought relentlessly to protect. She is the author of the unforgettable book Harem, memorie d’Arabia di una nobildonna siciliana (Harem, memoires of Arabia from a Sicilian noblewoman), a book with a lucid analysis of the Islamic world that is, in many ways, prophetic and more than ever topical. Is is the fruit of innumerable voyages, of time spent in those countries and an extensive knowledge.
A brilliant and multi-faceted imagination gave life to the magic flair of the Palermo-born jewel designer, Fulco di Verdura – as revealed across the stunning pages of his autobiography, The Happy Summer Days: A Sicilian Childhood, 1978, which he wrote in his latter years to exorcise the memories and the patrician splendour of his golden and free childhood days, spent at the Villa Niscemi and the lush vegetation of its park. What could be more exotic than this enchanted forest, overflowing with palms and rare tropical species set within the Favorita Park? Fulco was completely transported into the exotic. He was a child caught up in mysticism and the delirium of the senses, faced by resplendent coloured marbles, gilded silver and semi precious stones and the ultra-baroque horror vacui of the Church of the Santa Caterina convent, where every Sunday he attended mass on the family pew. A wealth of innumerable hues and decorative inserts, of details and allegorical and narrative suggestions.
From The Fashionable Lampoon Issue 10 – Grace & Graphic